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Is online video chat the path to a personalized customer experience?

Video chat can help create a personalized customer experience in a real and visual way. So why isn't it gathering more traction?

Over the past few years, experts have hailed online video chat as the next phase of customer service. Online video chat allows companies to meet customers where they are in digital medium. Online video chat enables customer service reps to demonstrate help in real time and gives customers a means to see products in a hands-on way.

Indeed, Gartner predicts that more than 100 of the 500 largest global businesses will introduce video-based chat by 2018 for customer-facing interactions. Video offers hands-on, personalized customer experience. But at the same time, in a recent survey "Customer Service in 2015," only 2.5% of respondents plan to use video chat, while 50% will prepare their infrastructure for the phone and 30% for email-based customer service. Similarly, the "2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report" indicated that 75% of respondents have no plans for video chat.

That's because online video chat has to mature to become a feasible tool in contact centers, which are still more comfortable using phone, email and even social media to handle customer service issues. While companies like Amazon -- with Mayday -- and Salesforce -- with the SoS -- button have incorporated video chat for a couple of years, there is still work to be done to make online video chat quality, snag-free and truly helpful for customers. There are also questions about privacy and consistency of service.

The journey to personalized customer experience with video

Initially, phone service was just that: phone service. Then organizations began to provide self-service via the use of interactive voice response. IVR was promoted as a customer benefit, but in reality, it was a barrier to reaching a "live agent" because it was costly.

Today, though, online video chat is becoming increasingly important to creating a personalized customer experience. Online video chat has brought personalized service back to the forefront by knocking down barriers and building customer intimacy.

Video chat is becoming increasingly important to creating a personalized customer experience.

Technology has driven this journey, starting with the creation of automatic call distributors, moving to integrated voice technology and now supporting video services. Today, in addition to supporting video chat with humans, technology also allows customers to interact with bots and avatars.

The key for video to be successful is to identify the benefits of this channel and to recognize the changes that organizations must make to provide an outstanding customer experience. The key benefits and challenges organizations face are as follows.

The benefits of online video chat

Online video chat can provide the ability to create an exceptional personalized customer experience. Some of the specific benefits of video include the following:

  • Providing a new communication option for customers. Customers demand a variety of channels for communicating with companies. Specific channels may be more appropriate for specific customer demographics or for specific types of inquiries. Video fills a gap by providing a new channel for customers to access.
  • Ability to demonstrate the use of a product. Whether a customer is shopping for a new product or has purchased one and is going through the process of assembling the product, questions often arise. The ability to demonstrate how a product works or how to assemble a product can provide tremendous value to customers. Video fills a gap by providing hands-on, visual experience for consumers to see how a product works or to provide step-by-step instruction.
  • Expansion of personalized service. Companies don't always provide in person service when a customer is in need. Organizations can provide personalized service in specific situations such as when a customer goes to a bank when it's closed, access to a video-enabled ATM terminal may provide the personalized service the customer demands.

Video can provide personalized service for individuals even though a live, in-person experience may not be available.

Challenges to address with video-based customer service

As with any new customer benefit, organizations must change their current business model. Some of the changes that are required include the following:

  • Revise the hiring process. Hiring criteria for video agents are different from telephone agents. Similar to telephone agents, video agents need strong verbal communication skills. The additional requirements for video agents include how well a potential new hire communicates via body language or other visual cues that are part of video experience.
  • Enhance the quality monitoring process. Quality monitoring of video agents, similar to phone agents, must include analyzing verbal interaction with customers. The next question revolves around the process to monitor the video piece of the interaction. This includes developing a scorecard for the video monitoring of the agent in addition to answering the question of the appropriateness of recording the video of the customer.
  • Define rules for accountability. In many call centers, procedures have been defined in the event of a customer verbally harassing an agent or if there is some type of threat from a customer. For two-way video chats, if the agent sees something that is inappropriate, illegal, compromising or something along those lines, what is the obligation of the employee and the organization to take steps to report what they have seen? Organizations must develop guidelines and procedures to protect agents and to raise a red flag if inappropriate behavior is observed during a video interaction.
  • Restructure data integration. A video chat represents another type of customer journey and it is important to capture the interaction with the customer and integrate the data from the video chat with other customer interactions so that a full history is maintained. Organizations must decide how to record video chat dialogues in their CRM systems.
  • Define how to work with customers via video. Depending on the specific business, it is critical to decide how to work with the customer via video. Demonstrations may be valuable in some industries -- e.g., how to build a barbecue -- where cobrowsing is valuable in other scenarios -- e.g., how to load software on a computer -- or screen sharing may make more sense for other service issues -- e.g., troubleshooting a computer. Organizations have many options regarding how to interact with customers via video, and they need to evaluate and select the most effective method.

Video is a new channel that can offer a personalized customer experience, allowing for a combination of a verbal and visual communication, and it breaks down previous barriers and enhances the personal relationship between an organization and an individual. Companies that want to implement online video chat should put together a well thought-out implementation strategy to attain the full benefits of this new and exciting technology.

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